October 29, 2014

Adventures in bike riding

Wednesdays are normally rest days for me, but after I got the kids off to school today, I started thinking about what I could do to be active today. I thought about going for a walk, but then my bike popped into my head. We are nearly finished with building the garage (it has taken since spring!) and I've been meaning to get my bike from my parents' garage and move it over here. So I decided to go for a bike ride this morning.

I'm absolutely clueless when it comes to riding a bike for fitness. I bought a pretty nice hybrid bike in 2011 when I had maintained my weight loss for a year, but I've only ridden it a handful of times. I honestly just don't enjoy bike riding very much, probably because I'm so nervous about getting hit by a car or getting a flat tire. But I want to like it, because I know that the cross training will be good for my running, so I'm hoping that if I do it more often, I'll get more comfortable with it.

Old photo: this is my bike when I first got it in 2011

Anyway, I figured I'd do 16 miles--the same 16-mile route that I ran when training for the Chicago Marathon--from my house all the way to the State Park, around the 5K loop at the park, and then back home. I packed a backpack with some stuff that I thought I may need: water, gloves and a hat (it was 39 degrees), some money, and my phone.

I went to my parents' house to start the ride, because that's where my bike was. The tires were totally flat, and I couldn't find an air pump anywhere. My parents have two large garages, so I spent a good 30 minutes searching for an air pump. Finally, I called them to ask my dad where it was (he was helping my brother move some people out of a house he just bought--a story for another day!). My dad usually uses an air compressor, which I didn't feel comfortable trying to use, so his options for manual pumps were really limited. One was a pump for a football or something, and the other was SO old that it was all rust. It basically disintegrated when I tried to use it!

I was getting really frustrated--here I was, actually wanting to go for a bike ride, and I couldn't. My final option was a manual hand pump that I have attached to my bike. I've tried using it before with no luck, so I wasn't sure I could get it to work out. Using the little hand pumps like that are a lot of work! To make a super long story a little shorter, I messed with it enough to where I finally got air in the tires. Not enough air, unfortunately, so I had to keep adding more until it felt okay.

Next came time to put on my helmet. You would think a helmet would be the simplest part of the whole adventure, right? I probably spent another 15 minutes rearranging straps, tightening and loosening, and trying to get it right. It felt weird, especially on my forehead, but I figured that was just because I had to get used to it.

Finally... FINALLY... I was ready to ride.

I wore my Garmin 910XT because I was curious to see what my speed was. It was actually pretty slow going at first. I had a headwind for the first half of the ride, and holy cow, is it ever hard to pedal into the wind! I really wanted to turn around and forget the whole thing, but after all the work I put into the tires and the helmet, I wanted to get in my 16 miles.

It was really scary riding on the roads. When I run, I run against traffic, so I don't feel nervous at all about being on the roads. But on a bike, you're supposed to ride with the flow of traffic, and every time a car came up behind me, I was pretty much bracing myself for impact. We don't have bike paths, so I was just on the narrow shoulder of the road.

Once I was at the State Park, I was on a paved path, which is closed to traffic. Once I curved back around at the halfway point, my speed picked up quite a bit because I had a tailwind. I was surprised just how much of a difference there was when the wind was at my back--it felt SO much easier! My Garmin did splits in 5-mile increments (when I run, the splits are 1-mile), and the first two splits took about 30 minutes each (10 mph).

The third split seemed to fly by, and I finished that one in 21:32--more than 8 minutes faster than each of the previous 5-mile splits. Over all, I ended up doing 16.19 miles in 1:26:31, with is an average speed of 11.2 mph. I have no idea whether that's good or not, because I don't know anything about cycling! I earned 9 Activity PointsPlus for it, though, so I am happy ;)

Speaking of which, the funniest thing happened when I got home. I had taken some selfies while I was at the State Park, so I'd have some sort of pictures to post. When I looked at them when I got home, I thought my helmet looked kind of strange. I looked up some photos online to make sure I'd adjusted it correctly, and I realized what the problem was... I was wearing it backwards the entire time!

I immediately thought of all the people that had seen me out riding today, and was so embarrassed. Might as well post the pic here, so we can all get a good laugh at my expense! ;)

I showed the photo to the kids, and asked them if there was anything wrong with the picture. Without missing a beat, they both said that I was wearing my helmet backwards. Bahaha! Even my kids know better. When I was in Pennsylvania for the RW Half, there was a book in my welcome bag about cycling for beginners. I guess I should probably read that :)

I especially should have looked at this page about the helmets. It would have saved me a lot of trouble this morning if I had!

Anyway, I'm really glad that I went for a ride! Despite all the trouble getting ready to go, now I know better for next time. I'd like to start using my bike more, so I'm going to aim for once a week until it's too cold outside. I'm still super nervous about traffic, but hopefully as I get used to it, I'll feel more comfortable. And maybe the cross-training will do me some good :)


  1. Love the backward helmet!! LOL! I love cycling for cross training. They make little mirrors you can attach to your helmet to give you a better feeling of safety.

  2. I love biking! It's my primary mode of transportation, including 12 miles a day to and from work, which makes cross training so easy because it's already built into my day! Just a safety tip: if it's been awhile since you've ridden, you should take your bike to the shop you got it from for a tune-up. They'll check your gears, brakes, and clean and oil your chain. Not only will this make it a smoother ride, but safer too, because you know everything on the bike is working. I've been reading your blog for years but am finally de-lurking to say hooray for biking! It's a lovely way to enjoy the outdoors, plus in the summer the breeze feels great.

  3. Oh my goodness. That was the funniest blog post ever. Thanks for sharing that. You rock to be able to share that with the world. Good luck, it will be much better next time.
    If you think that is funny, my boyfriend, (now husband) and I had gotten a motorcycle and he dropped me off at work and came to pick me up later in the day. I had brought my helmet in the office and when he arrived, I was nervous and rushing to get my helmet on. I was also a little self conscious because my boss was standing outside smoking a cigarette while I was trying to get ready to leave and get my helmet on and be whisked away by my cool biker boyfriend. I was struggling and getting really frustrated, but it was a tight fit and I wasn't used to wearing a full face motorcycle lid so I just kept jamming it on my head. I looked up at my husband sitting on the bike waiting for me to let him know I needed just a minute.....he was keeled over on the bike laughing so hard, he nearly fell off the seat. He was trying to point out to me to tell me the way I was holding my helmet was backwards, but I couldn't hear it over the engine. Needless to say, that was why I was struggling so hard and it would not slip on. I couldn't even look over at my boss and just left work with no eye contact with her. We laugh about it still today.

  4. You need to move to phoenix ... Local store has a seminar called Wine, Women and Wrenches to help teach women about their bikes and maintenance ... Let us know if you are sore in the morning 16miles is a long ways

  5. I laughed out loud at the backwards helmet! That is great! :)

  6. I'm super nervous about riding too. I know it is great exercise and really good for cross training but I live in such a rural place where cyclists are barely seen, that it ups the fear factor because motorists are definitely not watching what they are doing around here. Good job on the mileage!

  7. Maybe if you are nervous about roads, put the bike in your car and drive to the closest park/bike path and then ride there.

  8. Thank you, Thank you for sharing that! It makes you soo real! Wow! A real person, who does things just like me! Way to go with the bike and fear thing! I bought an expensive bike this past spring, and the nervousness of becoming road kill can feel like a lot at times, but it's great cross training!

  9. Love the backwards helmet! No wonder it too so long for you to adjust it. But seriously, the more you ride the more comfortable and less nervous you will become. And it's great cross training for your running!

  10. A few years ago I got a bike and I just HAD to have a pink cruiser bike with a basket so I could ride to the store instead of driving or just to carry stuff. The guy at the bike store recommended a hybrid bike but that didn't come in pink so I of course couldn't get it. Well as you may know from my blog my neighborhood is super hilly so no gears on a bike makes it impossible to ride....I was so annoyed. I have to drive with the bike on my car to actually get to ride it....what is the point of that? So my $500 bike has sat in my basement since. Maybe 5-10 rides to pick up chinese food or to weight watchers but that is it.

    My boss rides 40+ miles a day and loves it....I want to love it.

  11. I would go to a local bike shop and see what rides and stuff they have for beginners. They are often free and will help you out a lot as far as biking goes.

    You know I totally love biking more than anything else. It took time to build up to riding, but anyone can do it, really.

  12. I want to like biking too, but am nervous of riding with the traffic. I used to ride back and forth to work when I was younger, but now I'm older and wobblier (if that's a word) with knees that don't bend right and I feel like I would be a big target. I should look at buying some sort of fancy bike that sits more low to the ground. lol....very cute story, thanks for the chuckle, I have done the same thing with those helmets.

  13. As I was reading the beginning I thought "hmm wonder if it was on backwards" and the funny part is I only thought this because something similar happened to me. After a lot of adjustment and my daughter complaining about her helmet feeling weird I told her it was because it was new. Then on our ride around the neighborhood a mom told me she thought my daughter's helmet was on backwards...and it was.

  14. I started riding this year for triathlons and it's scary! Best advice is to not hug the shoulder but ride two feet into the lane so cars have to wait for clear traffic and go around you obviously. It's more scary when they try to squeeze by because there might be cars coming the other way too! It sounds wrong and scarier, but it does force them to give you a wider berth!

  15. I wouldn't have realized you were wearing your helmet backwards either, if that shows you how long it's been since I've ridden a bike....or worn a helmet!!


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